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September 3 Tuesday

Facebook Under Investigation, Adrian Kuenzler, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Zürich, Switzerland

  • Tuesday, September 3, 2019 at 12:05PM - 1:30PM
  • SLB Room 122
  • Open To The Yale Community
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A rapidly growing number of competition agencies are concerned that new technology firms have gained far-reaching control over citizens’ digital lives in the areas of e-commerce, online search, and societal networking.

Some of the most contentious legal issues become visible in a pair of widely discussed abuse of dominance cases – the German Federal Cartel Office’s (FCO) investigation into Facebook’s imposition of unfair general terms and conditions upon users and its predecessor probe initiated by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In the former, Facebook was found to take advantage of its dominant position in the market for social networks by requiring all-embracing authorisation from users to collect their personal data through third-party websites and applications that have embedded Facebook’s programming interface (eg, its ‘Like’, ‘Share’ and ‘Login’ buttons). Users are generally unaware of the extent of Facebook’s data-gathering practices, and the only choice they have is to consent to Facebook’s terms or do without the offered service altogether. Against this backdrop, the FCO considered users as not having given valid consent to Facebook’s practices so that Facebook’s processing and sale of users’ data obtained from third-party websites and applications amounted to an abuse of Facebook’s dominant position.

This talk discusses the extent to which consumer sovereignty can be given greater weight in concentrated marketplaces where digital platforms employ multi-sided business models and compete along quality dimensions such as privacy rather than price. It illustrates how the concept of consumer sovereignty may clarify the relationship between data protection, consumer rights, and competition law when users have few possibilities to act, and that increased consumer influence may shape digital markets in unanticipated ways.

Adrian Kuenzler is an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Zürich, Switzerland, where he has taught competition, intellectual property, and corporate law, as well as law and economics. He is a Visiting Professor at the Westfälische Wilhelms-University of Münster, Germany, and an Affiliate Fellow at Yale Law School’s Information Society Project. Adrian Kuenzler is the author of Restoring Consumer Sovereignty – How Markets Manipulate Us and What the Law Can Do About It (Oxford University Press 2017).

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